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Safety Issues – Outdoor Activities in Unfamiliar Territory

    One of the real joys of traveling with kids to other countries is exploring the outdoors – reaching the top of an extinct volcano, hiking through a narrow river gorge in the outback in Australia, white water rafting down a glacier-fed river in Canada, picnicking on a hilltop in Provence, climbing on a glacier in Patagonia, strolling through the leafy forests in Wales, watching the sun come up in Botswana. Using common sense will make your experience a safe and happy one.
      You are the best judge of the capabilities of your family members. Don't take a ten mile hike through the misty Highland glens if your kids would really rather play by the side of a stream. If you don't feel comfortable in the wide open spaces and like to sleep in a nice bed, don't plan a five day camel trip in the Indian desert. For those who like nature and luxury, take an African safari where you are put up in a lodge every night. If you are an accomplished backpacker, by all means, take on a trek in the Himalayas. For the novice skier, just because you're in Chile and there's snow on the mountains in July, don't take a run down the advanced slopes.
      Our family is on the rough and rugged side. My husband and I have camped and backpacked in the High Sierra with our kids since they were babies. When we go abroad, we enjoy the adventurous outdoor experience, such as hiking up of Gunung Agung in Bali or taking a camel safari in India. But even with plenty of outdoors experience, I suffer from vertigo. In certain situations in the mountains, looking straight down unnerves me. When we took a donkey trip on a precipitous trail above the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, I couldn't look over the edge and held tight onto the reins. Take into account any physical sensitivities in your family. Some people are more susceptible to altitude sickness, sea sickness, nausea on windy roads, gets tired or gets cold easily, allergies, etc.
      If you are planning any outdoor activities, bring along the proper clothing and shoes. Good shoes for hiking are a must. Leave your designer sneakers home if you are doing any serious hiking; you will just end up with blisters. A lightweight water-repellent windbreaker with a hood is always useful for all kinds of weather conditions. If you have an infant or toddler, pack along a baby carrier if you plan to do any nature trails – many trails can't accommodate a stroller.
      In some places, local guides are required, for example, climbing on the glaciers in Patagonia, or climbing up Gunung Agung in Bali. Even if you are an experienced hiker or climber, the local guides are invaluable. They know the environment. They know when a clear sky can turn into a thunderstorm or impenetrable mists. If you don't use a guide, ask at your hotel about weather conditions and trails and get a good map before going out on a day hike.
      Going to the beach is popular for families, but scope out the beach when you arrive. If you have small kids, avoid beaches with a deep shore break – a wide flat beach is ideal. Watch and see what the waves are doing. If you are hiking along a rocky shoreline, watch for unstable cliffs or waves that unexpectedly break over the rocks.
  For those who like nature in small doses, a walk in the woods is wonderful. Or take a picnic to have your lunch outdoors by a stream or lake. At sunset, stroll down an endless sandy seashore, stopping to look for shells and rocks to put in your pockets.
travel for kids | travel tips | safety issues: outdoors
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